Red Alert for Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

In honor of National Migratory Bird Day on May 12, I just wanted to alert you that in Arkansas, this is Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Migration Time!

I have been waiting and watching because the Rubies should be back in Arkansas any day now. Usually they start arriving in early April, and sometimes they come as early as mid-to-late March and then leave again in September or October.

This year, for some reason they’re a little late but I am busy preparing my hummingbird feeders because once they’re back – they’re hungry from their flight up from the south.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds normally spend the winter in Central America and their trek north is an amazing one. These tiny flyers manage to fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico, traveling up to 2500 miles each fall on their way to nest. From March through May they pass through the eastern two thirds of Texas. Some swing up through Cuba and Florida, probably with a stop at a resort hotel in Orlando, you can bet!

Other brave, strong Rubies barrel straight across the Gulf of Mexico. The birds reach the southern Gulf coast in late February and early March. Later migrants fly to breeding grounds further north so their arrival time to their nesting grounds coincides with when their food source plants are blooming. Only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi River. The tiny little newborn hummingbird is about the size of a honeybee, their egg, the size of a pea.

Conversely, their departure times corresponds with the end of the blooming period for those nutrient plants. The fall migration lasts from late July until late October in the southern states.

Nearly all Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds fly south of Mississippi for the winter. Ten other species can be seen in the region during winter so it’s a good idea to leave at least one feeder out.

Amazingly, the Ruby-throat beats its wings 40-80 times a second, and maintains an average flight speed of 30 mph while their escape speeds can reach 50 mph. No wonder they can outdistance Marge my cat!